Summary: We see the longing of God's heart for His people to return to Him. They were not bringing in the tithes and offerings because their hearts have strayed from God. It is a problem of the heart.

Let’s recap last week message. God will judge. He is the righteous and just God.

• Delayed judgement does not mean He is unjust. God is being patient and merciful, not wanting anyone to perish under His judgement (cf. 2 Pet 3:9).

• He will come as a refiner’s fire, not to burn and destroy His people but to purify and save them from sin.

• As a refiner and purifier of silver (3:3) He will do His sanctifying work in us until we become so pure He can see His image reflected in us.

And the work starts from within the household of God (1 Pet 4:17), from the Levites (3:3).

• God will purify them so that they can “bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.” (cf. 3:3-4)

• Sinful men are found, not just outside the church, but also from within.

• We need to humble ourselves, heed God’s warning and allow Him to do His cleansing work in our lives.

• It’s not going to be a one-time thing but a lifetime of purifying and growing in His likeness, until the day we see Him face to face.

The Lord concluded with these words – 3:6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”

• This is the basis our hope, the character of God. He is faithful and true, and will judge His people justly, not to destroy them but to save them.

• The people can trust Him fully… IF they are seeing Him correctly.

But sadly for many in Malachi’s time, they were not seeing Him correctly.

• The Lord laid the charge: 3:7 "Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty.

• God has not changed but they had. They broke faith with the faithful God. They broke the covenant and turned from His decrees and ways.

This line itself is a warning to us. We are not immutable. We can stray from God’s Word and covenant if we are not careful. We are kept only by the grace of God.

• If we don’t turn wholeheartedly to God, we can end up in a very precarious state, just like these people in Malachi’s time.

• Therefore this call to RETURN TO ME, says the Lord Almighty. He longs for a relationship with His people. It’s a call to return to Him.

This call to RETURN TO ME is a recurring theme in the books of the prophets.

• We can see that if you search the phrase in a concordance.

• It’s repeated many times, particularly in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosea.

Let me show you a few in Jeremiah 3 alone.

• Jer 3:12-13 "`Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD, `I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, `I will not be angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your guilt…”

• Jer 3:14 "Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband. I will choose you - one from a town and two from a clan - and bring you to Zion.

• Jer 3:22 "Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding."

His door is OPEN. God wants us to RETURN. That’s the LONGING of His heart. He is not out to condemn but to redeem. Return to Him is what God wants.

• Yet I am reminded of the hymn lyric, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” (From ‘Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ by Robert Robinson in 1757.)

Look at the people’s response to God’s call. 3:7 “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’”

• This is not an innocent query (from the context of the book, the many rebuttals).

• They were in denial. It was a mocking question. “What did we do wrong?”

• The NLT captures it best: “How can we return when we have never gone away?”

• What did we do wrong that we need to change? Where have we gone wrong that we need to return?

Be careful. We too can become numb to God’s Word, breaking faith with Him and yet not recognising it.

• The Lord stated the charge: “You rob me!” (3:8) and provided evidence, “Look at the storehouse.”

• “You rob me of tithes and offerings. Bring them into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” (3:10)

• Take a look at the storehouse in the Temple. It’s empty. There’s no food in there!

• It’s a charge that’s obvious, visible and undeniable. Where are the grain?

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